Before Milan, Mia Della Torre was the unexceptional sister compared to her smarter, prettier younger sister Gina. Before Milan Mia was the kind of girl who would check for monsters under her bed and make sure all of the doors and windows were locked each night.
Now, even if Mia is afraid she knows what to do. She knows who in a house is dead and who is something else. After Milan, she might still be scared but she also knows.
Mia’s grandfather left Milan, and his family, behind years ago when he settled in New York. Mia knows nothing of her distant relatives or their strange livelihood until she is possessed by a demon and saved by a cousin and great uncle she has never met. Even freed from the demon, Mia still may not be safe. Not when it can come back.
Suddenly Mia’s normal, unexceptional life is over. She is whisked away to Milan to live with the demon catching relatives her grandfather hated–the only people who might be able to keep Mia alive.
In a strange city Mia is cooped up indoors as she learns the strange language and stranger history surrounding Milan and her family. Demons, it seems, can be anywhere and her family always has to be ready. But with the threat of another possession looming, Mia isn’t sure if she wants to face her fate or hide from it.
Mia came to Milan for protection from the demon who wants her and to learn more about the family she never knew. Along the way, surrounded by aunts and uncles and cousins, Mia will also find confidence, a new language and even a new place to call home in The Demon Catchers of Milan (2012) by Kat Beyer.
The Demon Catchers of Milan is Beyer’s first book. It is also the first in a projected trilogy.
Filled with interesting tidbits about Milanese culture and phrases of Italian, The Demon Catchers of Milan is part travelogue, part fantasy. After an action packed opening (complete with a possession and an exorcism!), Beyer slows things down as Mia comes to Milan and begins to acclimate to her new surroundings.
There is not a lot of action in the middle of the story, something that might turn off readers expecting non-stop excitement. There are thrilling moments and the threat of Mia’s demon returning is a constant throughout the story, but the bulk of the plot focuses more on Mia connecting with her family and making sense of her place both in Milan and among the demon catching Della Torres.
Beyer’s focus on family is refreshing. Mia is surrounded by people who love and value her. It’s nice to see that kind of affection and unconditional love in a novel. It was equally pleasing to find a fantasy where the plot stays firmly focused on the heroine (and her family) instead of a messy love triangle or a star-crossed love plot.
Perhaps it’s because my mother’s side of the family is Italian but I absolutely loved Mia and the rest of the Della Torres. The Demon Catchers of Milan is short (288 pages hardcover) but Beyer manages to fill those pages with countless well-realized and vivid characters to create a real ensemble cast.
Although the pacing, particularly near the end, became frantic The Demon Catchers of Milan remains a solidly enjoyable read for anyone who enjoys fantasies with a strong heroine coming into her own. Best of all, this story is contained. There are hints of things to come in future installments but The Demon Catchers of Milan works very nicely on its own without leaving readers hanging until the trilogy is complete.
Possible Pairings: City of Bones by Cassandra Clare, Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey, Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough, The Demon Trapper’s Daughter by Jana Oliver, Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan, The Archived by Victoria Schwab, The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud
*This book was acquired for review from the publisher at BEA 2012*